Until around March 13 – as close to the Ides of March as one can get – the nonprofit arts sector in New Jersey had major bragging rights. And it still does.
I know you miss arts experiences as we knew them before the quarantine shutdown. The music that lit up the night and made you dance. The anticipation you sensed when you entered a theatre, excited about what you were about to experience on stage along with hundreds, if not thousands of others. The quiet moments in the museum that transported you to another time and place, wondering how the artist saw that scene, that face, that figure, or brought unlikely elements together in a sculpture that stopped you in your tracks gobsmacked.
Together, with spending by cultural institutions throughout New Jersey and the people who attend cultural events, more than a half a billion dollars drives state and local economies each year. Spending by arts groups includes employing nearly 22,000 creative workers. Arts-hungry consumers spend bucks on drinks (before, after, and during performances), dinner out in a neighboring restaurant, museum shop purchases, babysitting, parking, hotel stays, and more (if you need a lively description of how art matters in New Jersey, check out our quick video that brings it all home).
The arts in New Jersey are facing a long and winding comeback from the hideous virus that has taken so many lives, including those in the cultural community. While creative minds are at work reconfiguring business models that assure audiences and patrons maximum safety and comfort, it’s critical – yes, critical – to remind policy makers and elected officials at all levels that the arts make us whole and make our communities hum with activity.
Art Matters, a collaboration of ArtPride and the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, offers all the data you need to make the economic argument. Art Matters data was updated just this week using information from the NJSCA’s FY19 grant final reports, and you can find local economic impact for each of New Jersey’s 21 counties. If you dig a little deeper, you will find other information on state and federal grants and arts participation data linked to the 2109 Arts Education Summary Report, and dozens of video stories that animate the data.
All of this information and data is there to help you remind policy makers that the arts are the not-so-secret sauce needed to rebound not only our economies, but our sense of community. We keep saying we are all in this together, but we won’t truly be together until we can gather safely and enjoy the best of what the arts do – bring us together in community to experience the creativity that is now shining virtually through the generosity and boundless energy of our cultural force.
We are counting on you to keep making that case repeatedly. Your activism and your personal stories, along with this data, is absolutely necessary to get through this crisis and help the arts sector rebound slowly but surely.
If you need more info, a gentle nudge as you write your elected, or a refresher advocacy class, please reach out to Ann Marie Miller, Director of Advocacy and Public Policy at ArtPride New Jersey.